Shine A Light

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | August 18, 2009 12:45 pm

Two weeks ago I posted the trailer for physicist Clifford Johnson’s short movie entitled Shine A Light, and now his science film is viewable online! In his own words:

 As I said before, this short film is (I hope) fun, engaging, and informative. I hope lots of people take the time to watch it at least a couple of times. A basic scientific knowledge of the world is for everyone. Science is part of our culture and should be more widely circulated. Films such as this is one of the ways the National Science Foundation, who provided the support to make it, is helping to bring science to everyone. For this (and the other ones in the series) to be a success, your help is needed. It needs to be seen. Tell your family and friends, colleagues and students, local teachers, etc., about it. Forward it on to people you know. Blog it, tweet it, facebook share it, etc. Crucially, remember that it is designed to be not just for people who already know they have an interest in science, but others too, so make no assumptions about who might like it… just please send it. Thanks.

So with that introduction, let’s take a look…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, Media and Science

Comments (4)

Links to this Post

  1. Laser | The Intersection | Discover Magazine | September 14, 2009
  1. I like it. Makes me miss Bill Nye.

    Still, I kind of pictured the process as being less of an orbit dance around the nucleus, and more of a weird sci-fi mosh pit, what with the whole particle/wave thing.

  2. Feynman was first with the “dancing” electrons and photons. E.g., p. 17 of his book QED, Penguin Books edition, 1985:

    “The photon and electrons do some kind of dance…”

    Professor Johnson’s movie is nice though. Benjamin, take a look at Chapter 3 of Feynman’s book QED, specially pages 84-5 of the Penguin edition. There’s nothing strange in the wave-particle duality manifested by fundamental particles when they move through small spaces like the orbits in atoms or the small gaps in the double slit experiment. The wave type diffraction and indeterminancy arise because the electromagnetic field of the electrons in the slit edges and binding the electrons to nuclei are not classical fields, but are quantum fields. Field quanta randomly get exchanged between charges to cause the Coulomb force which binds electrons in atoms, so it’s chaotic (like Brownian motion where air molecules are randomly bombarding dust particles, inducing chaotic motions into the orbits of electrons which would otherwise be elliptical). A photon of light similarly is a quantum of electromagnetic energy, so it interacts with the random field quanta from the electrons that it passes near to. This is why light goes slower in glass than in vacuum, and why small slits cause it to diffract in a random way. If the slits are close enough that the transverse sie of the photon overlaps them, then both slits influence the motion, as Feynman explains by applying path integrals to the double slit experiment in his QED book, p. 85:

    “… when the space through which a photon moves becomes too small (such as the tiny holes in the screen) … there are interferences created by two holes .. The same situation exists with electrons: when seen on a large scale, they travel like particles, on definite paths. But on a small scale, such as inside an atom, the space is so small that there is no main path … there are all sorts of ways the electron could go, each with an amplitude.”

  3. Thanks Nigel! I’ll add it to the pile of summer reading.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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